Celebrate the Wesak Festival in Mount Shasta, California!
Speakers... Gilla Nissan
For many years, people who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the ancient Hebraic texts as well as those who wish to explore modern expressions of Hebrew's contemporary forms have benefited from studying with Gilla Nissan. A native of Tel Aviv now living and teaching in Los Angeles, Gilla, a true Morah (Teacher) has enabled students of all ages to have a deeper understanding of the uniqueness of this ancient language.
A long-time student of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism as well as other contemplative traditions, Gilla now senses an urgency to share the spiritual depths of the 22 sacred Hebrew Letters. "The Letters themselves constitute a complete cosmology," Gilla explains. Through meditation, guided imagery and an understanding of the guidance of these 22 hyper-literal forces, Gilla initiates each seeker of truth into important and miraculous discovery: the mission of his/her soul.
"The Hebrew Letters compose the language of the universe," Gilla says. "Our contemporary condition has called forth these Letters on the horizon of human consciousness with renewed relevance. Perhaps this teaching appears because we are ready, perhaps because the time is short. One thing is clear," she emphasizes, "As the Letters become more and more prominent around the world, and there is more demand to understand their meaning, there is also more guidance and help from above available today. The universe increasingly becomes compliant and obedient. Inspired by the compliance of the universe, we begin to realize that change is possible. Change. Awareness. Expansion. Clarity. And, ultimately, fulfillment.
By nature I have been attracted to engage in higher matters. In my youth, in a suburb of Tel Aviv, "higher" matters were poetry, philosophy and the arts.
My parents were first generation natives of Jerusalem who focused on matters of livelihood, establishing themselves in the newly build country known as Israel, especially making sure their five children will receive the best education available. It was part of understanding themselves as progressive Jews.
I was raised to be a proud Israeli, but had struggled with the feeling of being "the other", that seemed to come from an unrecognized far-away life. This notion followed me as I have lived over the years in several countries with very different mentalities and cultural backgrounds.
The education I received in Israel only wanted us to be the dream generation of the new nation. In this process, the sensibilities of a Diaspora Jewish modality was pushed to the edge of what was truly a melting pot. Many other precious attributes to which I had been clinging as a way to validate the sense of who I was were rejected.
Later on I spent much time gathering them back. As I re-examined and re-defined myself, it has been according not only to past reflection and future projection, but also according to the mysteries of so much which is unknown.
Still, there was something very special and unusual about growing up next to giants who lived with challenging high dreams, values and a sincere commitment to fulfill them. The generations of my grandparents and their parents, who came from Teheran, Isfahan, Hamden and Shiraz, and my parents who were born and raised in Palestine. /p>
My father was a man of vision and had a rare capacity of feeling hope in what he called Tzur Yisrael (literally, Rock of Israel) in the midst of the most difficult times. It was a gift I carried consciously and unconsciously with me when, at the age of 21, I left Israel for the USA.
I also carried the memories of two grandmothers, both named Sara. I was named Gilli-Sara after my paternal grandmother. She had dozens of white doves in her backyard who would fly down from the roof of her house, only to her, anytime she walked by. My mother's mother once gestured to me to pick the siddur (Jewish prayer book) that fell on the floor and made me kiss it. I remember the perplexing feeling of awe that I experienced as a very young girl. It was my first experience of the sacred. From my mom I learned how to bare unpleasant manifestations of others.
Adolescence was maximum confusion and adventurous. I made my beloved parents pretty worried when all I was concerned with were matters of the "above". That could have still passed as OK behavior, if not only for another tenancy in me during the 1960s and 70s: this great measure of independence expressed as a "Tom boy", running bare footed in our neighborhood of Maoz Aviv. At the same time, I was a promising student to my teachers, even though I was running around with radical left-wing communists and, on the side, working as a fashion model. These were among other paradoxes in the formation of my identity as a member of a conservative Jewish, Israeli, Persian family.
At the age of 21, by now married with a baby, I arrived in Los Angeles "to study and to see the world". It was a move which happened swiftly and was followed by much effort and struggle to be digested and to be understood. To leave a family still organized pretty tribally and a 2000 year-old dream which had just recently come true, was inconceivable even to me. It had to be done totally unconsciously and with a special relaxing "pill" which one day we will return home. This experience was not just a singular personal passage of life, it was a part of a collective migration which still perplexes me on many levels. As times has passed new perspectives have appeared to reconcile the seemly, contradicting concerns. Fifteen years ago this mystery was over when I wrote a satisfying line of poetry:
"I left the Holy Land to find God in Los Angeles."
LA was the desert. And there was no turning back. Culturally, mentality, socially, psychologically. Perhaps just like it was for my grandparents and their parents who traveled blindly to a dream-land on the wings of a messianic longing. LA was the land of all kinds of infinite possibilities. I fell into depression.
Externally I was blessed with everything life named as happiness but internally I whispered to myself: "I do not believe this is what life is all about."
I was always at schools; Tel Aviv University, Yeshiva University/west coast seminary, University of Judaism (known today as American Jewish University) and graduated from all of them. I become a teacher, but nothing yet really happened to me. Writing seems to be, perhaps, fulfilling, but the same internal whisper has continued to regard my existential situation, "Is this what life is all about?..."
One day I saw the movie "Meetings with Remarkable Men" and was very touched, but I didn't at that time know why. Later, I have realized the film's amazing capacities through music and movement, to transmit higher knowledge and to cause inner changes. I was impressed deeply when I read G.I. Gurdjieff state, "It is by far more important to wash the floor consciously than write a book unconsciously".
I then abandoned all formal academic education and creative pursuits and spend 30 years immersing myself in this wisdom. I met "remarkable" people and teachers. I learned dedication and devotion, and how to be in the present moment. I experienced undiscovered parts of my lower and higher self.
I found what I was looking for. When you find what you are looking for, it is a new opening. It's an introduction to a new beginning.
At the same time, about 25 years ago, I met a likewise remarkable man who had also moved from Israel to LA; his particular concern was to answer a pressing question posed by many Jewish families and the Jewish community as a whole: Why do so many young Jews being attracted to other teachings? What is wrong with them? His name is Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man. He turned to be one of my most important teachers and a guide. He showed me that there is a room for me, there, in the place where I came from.
Thus, I became a seeker in my own birthright as well. I began to discover amazing depth, questions and wisdom in my Jewish roots and contemporary expression. I found nourishment in questions that, I learned to recognize, are suppose to remain questions so that I may be led to bigger ones. After much study, naturally, real learning becomes a dialectical, unfolding process of Truth. As Rabbi Omer-Man describes it, spiritual maturity can be measured by the ability to hold both opposing life forces together in ourselves: the desires to come closer to God and those that want to remain afar, that pull us in the opposite direction. It is like breathing, like the day and the night, the yes and the no.
It is rare and fascinating. Again and again, freshly fascinating. Many seekers of Truth are dedicated to this particular study and engage themselves with this level of examining and, thus, refining their life. And it continues to be both reassuring and humbling.
At the present, I have been working with The Hebrew Language and Names. Hebrew is one of the three oldest languages in the world. The word itself, Hebrew (Iv'rit), is derived from the verb la/a/vor, meaning "to pass", indicates its soul's mission: to pass, to pass over, to be a passer by, to cross boundaries or to be moving forward into the past. Again, a dialectic imperitive has surfaced through the name itself.
While Hebrew has been a language of prayer for thousands of years, for little more than the recent past 60 years, it has been experiencing a revival and utilization as daily-spoken language. This very unusual phenomenon attracts my further investigation. During the past 30 years, my exploration has focused on developing approaches which merge the spoken level with its richly mystical beauty and wisdom.
During the past year, a new teaching about The Hebrew Letters and Hebrew Names has surfaced. Once only understood by the mystics, the Letters are emerging once again as the means by whom the world was created. Mysteriously called in the Torah "utot u moftim" (literarily, Letters of wonder/sign/model/symbol.....), they have a whole new way to be understood and to be use in our everyday life so that we may live it fully. This study explores their essence on the experiential level, and not just as an intellectual pursuit.
In these Letters and Names I found what I was looking for. I have been invited to come, to stay, to explore, to receive and to share what I see.
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